Create an Elevator Pitch
That's Captivating

Asian business woman wearing pink dress giving her elevator pitch to an African American business woman in a blue suit.

It's one of those things that everyone in business needs to do - create an elevator pitch. You know, that little speech you use to introduce yourself at events or meetings to potential clients or professional peers. Experts tell you that it is just as important as your business card, maybe even more so. 

So, you sign up for a course or workshop, follow the plug-and-play elevator speech template they provide, create an elevator pitch, but when your big moment to introduce yourself arrives, your pitch falls flat on its face. You feel disappointed and confused.

Why is it so hard to create an elevator pitch? Because while you're probably following a good outline, I'm guessing that it doesn't really highlight how fabulous you are.

No worries, I can help you create an elevator pitch that's captivating and memorable. Because you want them to remember you, right?

First, let's review the goal of an elevator pitch: your goal should be to go beyond the basics of introducing yourself and your business. Your goal should be to get the listener to ask questions about you and your business. Questions are a sign of interest – they want to hear more. Wanting to hear more, is always a good sign. If they don't ask at least one question, your elevator pitch was a flop.

Before we get to how to create an elevator pitch that's captivating, let's do a quick review of the typical recommended format:

  1. Polite greeting followed by your name and what you do.
  2. Summary of who you work with and the problem that you solve.
  3. Discuss how your product/service solves that problem.
  4. Explain the value/benefits of your product or the transformation that your service provides.

Here's what that elevator pitch might sound like for me as a pageant coach:

Hi, I'm Valerie Hayes, and I'm a pageant coach. I teach contestants how to handle their personal and on-stage interviews during competition. I work with contestants on how to answer controversial questions and highlight their accomplishments. Using these skills helps them get top scores at their competition.

It follows the recommended format, right? But it's not fascinating, is it?

That's because I skipped the #1 secret to creating a captivating elevator pitch: it must be interesting.

Before we go any further, I need to give a little disclaimer here - just by saying I'm a pageant coach, people are somewhat interested. It's kind of like being the bearded lady at the circus – people are curious because I'm an oddity that they've never seen before. But being an oddity doesn't result in questions that allow me to promote my business.

So, let's move beyond the oddity factor. There's nothing inherently interesting about what I said. Yes, I communicated what I do, who I help, the problem I solve, and the outcome. It's technically correct but boring.

Let's take a look at applying the ‘it must be interesting’ lens to my elevator pitch:

Hi, I'm Valerie Hayes, and I'm an expert pageant coach. I teach contestants competing in Miss America or Miss USA, and their feeder pageants, how to nail their personal and on-stage interviews. They learn how to answer controversial questions and how to market and promote themselves without coming across as arrogant. Using the skills they learn, contestants can consistently place or win at pageant competitions.

In the first sentence, I added the word ‘expert’ to let them know I've achieved a level of recognition and success as a coach. Just adding this word can trigger questions like, "What's the difference between a pageant coach and an expert pageant coach," or "How did you get to be an expert pageant coach?" These questions allow me to talk about my qualifications, recognition as a leader in pageantry, and long track record of success.

In the second sentence, I added details about who I coach: contestants who compete in Miss America or Miss USA and their feeder pageants. This is interesting to the listener because almost everyone has watched one of those pageants on TV, and they typically like to ask questions about the pageants. When they ask about the pageants, I'm able to talk about all the things I must teach contestants, so they look like they're effortlessly handling a tough question on stage. This enables me to highlight my strategic communications, personal branding, and public speaking coaching skills.

And instead of saying how to 'handle' their interview, I say 'nail' their interview, which is a more emotionally powerful word. It implies a level of expertise and a sense of accomplishment for the contestant. I get to talk about how the coaching I provide enables the contestant to feel elated at the end of her answer, which boosts her self-esteem.

In the third sentence, I mention the big fear contestants, coaches, consultants, and small business owners all have in common: the need to market and promote themselves without sounding arrogant. This is something that almost everyone struggles with. Why? Because we're never taught how to tactfully market and promote ourselves. We're told to mention others and give them credit. We're trained to focus on the team and say 'we' instead of discussing our individual contribution. No wonder you’re confused about how to conversationally promote yourself.

Lastly, I highlight the outcome of my coaching: contestants consistently place or win at pageant competitions. What? You mean your contestants don't win every pageant they enter? No, they don't. Because pageant competitions are subjective. It's kind of like ice dancing at the Olympics where everyone thinks the Canadian couple won, but the French judge's score gave the win to the Russians.

So, why do I say, 'consistently place or win?' Because people in pageantry will immediately recognize that as a fabulous outcome. Only the very best contestants consistently place or win in every single pageant they enter. And people not familiar with pageantry will ask what it takes to consistently place or win. Either situation, allows me to highlight how my unique approach to interview and communications coaching creates success.

As a pageant coach, my elevator pitch was interesting to just about anyone inside or outside of pageantry. There's enough there to spark the curiosity of the listener and trigger a wide variety of questions. And that's the goal. You can't have a conversation about what you do if the other person isn't interested in hearing more after you've delivered your elevator pitch.

Because curiosity is the first step to creating an emotional connection. Studies show that if someone's curious about you, they're more likely to engage you in a conversation. It's that last word that we're looking for: engage. Once you get them to engage, you can easily chat away about what you do and move on to whether or not they need your product or services.

So, go ahead and follow your preferred outline to create an elevator pitch, but make absolutely sure that you make it interesting enough to produce follow-up questions that highlight what an amazing person you are.